Coronavirus: No Hajj for Indian Muslims this year, refund initiated
India won't be sending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia this year to perform Hajj, Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said on Tuesday. This announcement came after Saudi Arabia said it would be welcoming a limited number of people for the pilgrimage, that begins in late July, considering the coronavirus pandemic. Over two million people visit Mecca every year for the event. Here are more details.
The virus, whose vaccine is yet to be found and is easily transmitted, has infected 161,005 in the Kingdom and killed 1,307. To contain the spread, a lockdown was enforced, restricting all movement round the clock. After three months, the curfew was lifted this weekend to resurrect the economy. However, the restriction imposed on international travel remains in place.
Those above 65 won't be allowed: Saudi Arabia
Now, as per the new rules, those above 65 aren't permitted to perform Hajj. People will be quarantined both before and after the pilgrimage. "The number, God willing, maybe in the thousands," Hajj Minister, Muhammad Benten said in a virtual press conference. This decision would turn to be a double-whammy for the country's economy, already suffering from lockdown and dipping oil prices.
Decision was taken to ensure Hajj is performed safely
"The decision was taken to ensure Hajj is performed in a safe manner from a public health perspective while observing all preventative measures and the necessary social distancing protocols to protect human beings from the risks associated with this pandemic," Saudi's statement reportedly read.
Indonesia became the first country to not send its citizens
This month, Indonesia became the first Muslim country to decide on not sending its citizens to Saudi. The country wanted Riyadh to give more clarity on the preparations. "I've been preparing for years. But what can I do? This is Allah's will - it's destiny," an Indonesian, who looked forward to the trip, told AFP. Soon, Malaysia, Senegal, and Singapore also followed suit.
India will refund the money of the pilgrims: Naqvi
Similarly, the Indian government said it would honor Saudi's decision. "We have decided that Hajj pilgrims from India will not be sent to Saudi Arabia for Hajj 2020. Application money of more than 2.3 lakh pilgrims will be returned without cancellation deductions through a direct transfer," Naqvi said in a tweet. To note, Saudi has never canceled Hajj in 90 years of its establishment.
The pandemic has changed the world as we know it
COVID-19, which has taken 474,818 lives globally, spelled doom for all major events, be it religious or cultural. Since its origin in China, the virus has forced countries to impose sweeping restrictions and shut travel. The curbs had catastrophic effects on the economy, with one study predicting that globally 1.1 billion would become extremely poor. While countries have started unlocking, the threat hasn't subsided.